Tuesday 19 May 2015 | Published in Regional
Both women and men on Nauru say they have been sexually assaulted by guards, while children as young as five have reportedly tried to harm themselves because of the inadequate conditions on the island. The inquiry –entitled The Select Committee on the Recent Allegations relating to Conditions and Circumstances at the Regional Processing Centre in Nauru – was launched following the release of the independent Moss Report, which detailed sexual and physical assaults on asylum seekers.
The submissions were revealed ahead of the committee’s fi rst public hearing which began in Canberra yesterday. The inquiry comes as six Australian Federal Police offi cers arrived in Nauru last Wednesday to advise local police on investigating sexual abuse cases. In a number of submissions to the committee written by asylum seekers, women say they cannot sleep at night because rats run through the tents, and they have been asked to expose themselves by guards if they want additional hot water during their showers. One submission from a doctor who recently visited the Pacifi c nation details an alleged rape against a woman going to the toilet at night. “When interviewing the patient referred to me, she confided to me that she had been raped,” Professor David Isaacs wrote.
“She told me that since the rape, one guard had offered her extra shower time in return for sexual favours.
“And on another occasion a different guard offered marijuana in return for sexual favours.”
Another woman says when she was with her seven-year old son, washing his hair in the shower, the water stopped. The guard told her he would only give her more water if she showed her naked body to him. In another submission, the Sydney-based Immigration Advice and Rights Centre (IARC) has recounted the story of a female detainee who said her son has been sexually assaulted three times.
“In 2014 the boy began to self harm and was speaking about attempting suicide. It later became evident to his mother that the boy had been sexually assaulted,” the submission reads. The IARC submission also claimed Nauruan and Australian offi cials have had relationships with detainees.
Former Nauru magistrate, Australian Peter Law, said it appeared the country’s police force had failed to properly investigate serious sexual and violent incidents against refugees and asylum seekers.
“The failure to bring charges suggests political interference and highlights an unwillingness to bring to public attention, the circumstances of refugees in Nauru generally,” Law’s submission states.
“Such action may refl ect adversely on Nauru as a place to process and settle asylum seekers.” Law was dismissed as the island’s chief justice and deported from Nauru in 2014 after granting an injunction against the deportation of two people from the island.
The submissions also shed light on the living conditions in the detention facility – with some describing mouldy tents full of cockroaches and rodents. “At night, condensation causes the mould to drip onto the faces of people as they sleep on stretchers. This is causing fungal eye and skin infections,” Asylum Seeker Resource Centre’s submission reads.
“The tents are full of mice and cockroaches. Rats loiter outside the tents.” Contractors Transfi eld Services, Wilson Security and the Immigration Department were to appear at yesterday’s inquiry, along with the charity Save the Children. The Immigration Department’s submission explains the process that deals with complaints, while conceding the reporting of allegations needs improvement. “All allegations of inappropriate behaviour at the Regional Processing Centre are taken seriously and are appropriately investigated,” its submission reads.
“Allegations of criminal behaviour are referred to the Nauru Police Force who is responsible for investigating contraventions of Nauruan law. “The Government of Nauru and the Department are committed to improving the mechanisms in place to capture all allegations, with a view to encouraging reporting and enhancing he effectiveness of current reporting systems to ensure information is readily accessible and accurate.” The submissions have come via the Darwin Asylum Seeker Support and Advocacy Network, known as DASSAN, which has had access to people who have been detained on Nauru. Minister Dutton has said that he was working through the incidences mentioned in the review.
Last week the Human Rights Law Centre commenced a case in the High Court of Australia on behalf of 10 asylum seekers that challenges the lawfulness of the offshore detention arrangements in Nauru.
The Select Committee is due to report on its findings by June 15.